— first preference for frontline workers; elderly, teachers to also be immunised
MORE frontline health workers from across the country will be immunised against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), as Guyana has received 20,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China.
With over 8,600 persons being infected and 198 losing their lives to COVID-19, Guyana will be looking to utilise its vaccines to immunise firstly the frontline health workers who treat patients in need of care, and, subsequently, administer the vaccine to other vulnerable persons.
The timely donation of Sinopharm vaccines arrived on a Caribbean Airlines flight at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) on Tuesday evening.
According to a report from the BBC, Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, announced on December 30, 2020, that phase three trials of the vaccine showed that it was 79 per cent effective, lower than that of Pfizer and Moderna. However, the United Arab Emirates, which approved a Sinopharm vaccine early December, said the vaccine was 86 per cent effective, according to interim results of its phase three trial.
Considering the vaccine’s high efficacy and the pending World Health Organisation (WHO)’s approval, Guyana, like many other countries, has no reservations about the vaccine, and, in fact, will soon begin rolling it out across the country.
“With 20,000 doses, we will immunise 10,000 persons… when we look at frontline workers, we would want to give them first. And, having this first set coming, we would be able to roll out the immunisation programme,” Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony, said following a simple signing ceremony to acknowledge the receipt of the vaccines, on Tuesday.
The two-dose vaccine will reach frontline health workers across the country, the minister said, adding that the immunisation process will begin soon.
Ahead of this process, to erase any doubts about the vaccine, Minister Anthony said there is scientific literature to prove that the efficacy is high.
“This vaccine is extremely good. It is a very effective vaccine and when you compare that with the other vaccines, it stands out. The side effects are very minimal, so there is no reason why people should not take the vaccines,” Dr. Anthony affirmed.
He further said that the company, an experienced vaccine producer, has supplied the COVID-19 vaccine to many other countries.
It is for this reason that the minister encouraged persons to take the vaccine once they fall into the category of persons who stand to benefit.
He cautioned persons, however, that even though they take the vaccine, there is still a small chance that they could get infected. But, the vaccine would, in most cases, eliminate the need for persons to be hospitalised for the disease.
Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Chen Xilai, assured persons too that the vaccine could withstand scientific scrutiny.
“The Sinopharm vaccine has covered three phases of the trials and the quality of the vaccines is guaranteed that it is safe. More than 14 million Chinese and foreign nationals, including high-level officials have been vaccinated,” Xilai said, adding that there is no doubt about the quality of the vaccine.
Contrary to any perception on the effectiveness of the vaccine, Xilai believes that it would help in the fight against COVID-19 and, by extension, the recovery of the economy.
“Guyana is the first country in the Caribbean to receive such a donation and this reflects the strong commitment of China to strengthening its relationship with Guyana,” the Chargé d’Affaires said, noting that the Asian nation has been assisting Guyana from the inception, through the supply of key medical supplies.
Guyana has already received 3,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through a donation from Barbados last month. Those were used to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers and employees at the CARICOM Secretariat in Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown.
An additional 180,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca will arrive by the end of this month from India and the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility.
The additional doses will far surpass the number of frontline workers and, as such, the Ministry of Health has taken the decision to administer the jab to persons categorised as “high risk”, including persons with underlying medical conditions, the elderly and teachers, among other vulnerable groups.